Graphic Novels from Guibert, Ryan, & Thompson, plus a Mother Teresa Bio | Xpress Reviews

Week ending May 9, 2014

Guibert, Emmanuel (text & illus.). How the World Was: A California Childhood. First Second. Aug. 2014. 160p. ISBN 9781596436640. pap. $19.99. MEMOIR
Drawn in loving, sepia-toned detail with cinematic framing, author/illustrator Guibert’s graphic memoir is visually special, combining highly intricate art meant to evoke old photographs with more comic-like illustrations. Guibert recounts the childhood of Alan Cope (born in 1925 in Southern California and featured previously in Guibert’s Alan’s War). The text functions as a conversation between Cope and the reader. Stories tell of Cope’s parents and grandparents, as well as discuss religion and masturbation, childhood friends, and the unexpected death of his mother when Cope was 11. Guibert’s fondness for his subject is evident by the way he hangs onto each reminiscence no matter how trivial. Unfortunately, much of the genealogical aspects feel plodding and overlong. Conversely, the mother’s death, which comes at the very end, is not plumbed for the depth it could have been, and given the heightened level of candidness previously displayed, it does not seem like understandable reticence but a missed opportunity.
Verdict Amazing images give a feel of the era, and some of the narratives are fascinating, revealing in Alan a very well-rounded, complex person. Yet there is something off in the pacing. Recommended for fans of the period, those who enjoyed Guibert’s earlier work, and anyone interested in life in America during the Great Depression.—Evan M. Anderson, Kirkendall P.L., Ankeny, IA

Helfand, Lewis (text) & Sachin Nagar (illus.). Mother Teresa: Angel of the Slums. Campfire. (Heroes). 2013. 88p. ISBN 9789380028705. pap. $11.99. BIOG
Helfand (The Time Machine; The Wright Brothers) writes a graphic biography of Mother Teresa, born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (1910–97). The story briefly covers Agnes’s early life in Macedonia, in what would later become Albania. The beginning captures her parental influences and disposition toward helping others. At 18, she decides to join a convent with long-term plans to go to India to serve God. Once in India, Agnes has another calling to minister to the needs of the poor and sick in the streets of Calcutta, what would become known as the Missionaries of Charity. A significant part of the narrative tells of how Mother Teresa’s ministry grew, eventually internationally, and in her later life the many accolades and acknowledgements she received for her personal sacrifice and devotion to the service of others, among them the Nobel Peace Prize (1979) and Presidential Medal of Freedom (1985). The art by Nagar (Gandhi: My Life Is My Message) is painted in watercolors. The work includes further readings and a pullout poster of Mother Teresa.
Verdict Helfand introduces Mother Teresa and her ministry to younger readers (sixth to eighth graders) and will leave many readers inspired. Recommended.—Scott Vieira, Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX

starred review starRyan, R.J. (text) & David Marquez (illus.). The Joyners in 3D. Archaia. 2014. 128p. ISBN 9781936393701. $29.95. Rated: M. SF
joyners050914Set in 2062 America, where room-temperature fusion and flying cars have long been realized and trips to the moon are passé, The Joyners hinges on the midlife crisis of the titular family’s technocrat patriarch. His wife is about to leave him, he’s contemplating an affair with his autistic daughter’s therapist…and he’s just invented a personal antigravity device that will change the world forever—again. This journey through murder, domestic and familial drama, and corporate and media intrigue reminds readers that technology may well change humanity but not human nature. It’s all rendered in clean, uncluttered artwork in this, the first full-length, original anaglyph 3-D graphic novel. That now-clichéd visual effect is neither used ostentatiously nor as a crutch; the solid storytelling and dialog would work equally well in 2-D.
Verdict The only hindrance in adding the highly recommended Joyners to any fiction collection is having enough pairs of 3-D glasses on hand; each copy comes with only two, and more will be needed. Some violent scenes, profanity, drug use, and sexual content; suitable for YA and up.—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Stechschulte, Conor (text & illus.). The Amateurs. Fantagraphics. Jun. 2014. 72p. ISBN 9781606997345. pap. $14.99. F/HORROR
Stechschulte’s debut graphic novel is a horror tale set in a period that precedes modern day; the clothing and buildings reflect a post-1920s United States. The main story follows two butchers who wake up one morning and discover they cannot remember their trade. As one might expect in a violent tale, the pair decide to butcher some animals while in this amnesic state and end up slashing each other and removing body parts in the process. While the butchers provide the bulk of the plot, the narrative also briefly follows a schoolgirl and two women who attempt to buy meat from the butchers. As much as through the text, the story is told through impressive black-and-white illustrations. The characters are drawn in a more traditionally cartoon style, while the backgrounds are detailed and realistic. The use of irregularly shaped panels adds to the visual impact.
Verdict The creative and well-drawn illustrations outshine the story line, which is muddled by the inclusion of the schoolgirl’s diary. This book will likely be enjoyed by horror and indie readers but is not a must-purchase.—Katherine van der Linden, Metcalfe, Ont.

Thompson, Richard (text & illus.). The Complete Cul de Sac. 2 vols. Andrews McMeel. May 2014. 648p. ISBN 9781449438821. slipcased pap. $75. COMICS
Alice Otterloop, who can be annoying, loud, and unbearable when cranky, unfailingly disarms audiences with her charm, curiosity, and innocence as she explores life in American suburbia. She boldly ventures into childhood along with her meticulous and picky brother Petey and the widely eccentric assemblage of her Blisshaven Academy schoolmates. Writer/artist Thompson expertly captures this idyllic period in life when everything can be made prettier with a little bit of glue and glitter and dancing on a manhole is the best stress reliever. With a wide array of characters, including a talking guinea pig, Thompson’s book tackles topics such as peer pressure and the importance of accepting individuality, tempering their seriousness with gentle humor and wit. Readers who enjoy honest and endearing comic strips such as Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes or Charles Schulz’s Peanuts will enjoy Alice and her friends’ romp into childhood. The Complete Cul de Sac compiles Thompson’s much-loved comic strip in two volumes. Along with every strip ever printed, the books include snippet commentaries from Thompson about certain strips, giving more insight on his creative process and authorial intent.
Verdict A treat for readers seeking a humorous yet contemplative cartoon on childhood.—Laura Gallardo, St. Louis